Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 475–511 | Cite as

Crack Coalescence in Molded Gypsum and Carrara Marble: Part 1. Macroscopic Observations and Interpretation

  • L. N. Y. Wong
  • H. H. Einstein
Original Paper


Cracking and coalescence behavior has been studied experimentally with prismatic laboratory-molded gypsum and Carrara marble specimens containing two parallel pre-existing open flaws. This was done at both the macroscopic and the microscopic scales, and the results are presented in two separate papers. This paper (the first of two) summarizes the macroscopic experimental results and investigates the influence of the different flaw geometries and material, on the cracking processes. In the companion paper (also in this issue), most of the macroscopic deformation and cracking processes shown in this present paper will be related to the underlying microscopic changes. In the present study, a high speed video system was used, which allowed us to precisely observe the cracking mechanisms. Nine crack coalescence categories with different crack types and trajectories were identified. The flaw inclination angle (β), the ligament length (L), that is, intact rock length between the flaws, and the bridging angle (α), that is, the inclination of a line linking up the inner flaw tips, between two flaws, had different effects on the coalescence patterns. One of the pronounced differences observed between marble and gypsum during the compression loading test was the development of macroscopic white patches prior to the initiation of macroscopic cracks in marble, but not in gypsum. Comparing the cracking and coalescence behaviors in the two tested materials, tensile cracking generally occurred more often in marble than in gypsum for the same flaw pair geometries.


Uniaxial compressive loading test High speed camera Tensile cracks Shear cracks Crack type classification scheme 



The project is sponsored by the NSF Geomechanics and Geotechnical Systems Program under grant CMMI-0555053 and the US Department of Energy Geothermal Program under grant DE-FG36-06GO16061. The first author is also thankful to the support by the Croucher Foundation Scholarship (Hong Kong) and the Sir Edward Youde Memorial Fellowship (Hong Kong).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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